Scam or legit? Arweave


Project  is questionable: few details, lots of enthusiasm. There is a working  API and a few solutions based on it. But the problems the platform  solves (and the way it solves them) are questionable. We have a lot of  questions for the team. For now, the verdict is: Questionable.

Overview

Concept

Cheap, distributed, permanent data storage on the blockchain.

Actual Product

The Arweave Protocol — yet another “new data storage blockchain protocol.”

The  Blockweave — a new distributed ledger. It’s based on a new consensus  mechanism called “Proof of Access.” Supposed to be really quick and  effective (ok, we’ll see).

Self-Organising  Network — they have some magic “wildfire” algorithm that allows the  network topology to adapt autonomously to the most efficient routes of  information distribution.

High  Transaction Throughput — after years of research, they invented “block  shadows,” which allow the weave to reach speeds of 5,000 transactions  per second.

Simple  Decentralised App Development — They have REST APIs that allow others  to use their tech even before the mainnet’s launch — and in any  programming language!

They claim to have already created a number of apps on their blockweave:

  • The Journal of Raw Data — open access journal for hospitals.
  • A Permanent Internet Archive
  • Legal Document Storage — users can permanently store all their legal files.
  • Verifiable Democracy — voting app

Wow, megaproject! [insert sarcasm here]

Looks  like the most basic example of using Ethereum smart contracts. Nothing  difficult here at all. For example, if you open remix.ethereum.org, you  can download the voting code. Seriously — try it!

But wait, they also have an API!

https://github.com/ArweaveTeam/arweave/blob/master/http_iface_docs.md

Didn’t get to explore it, but good that they have something.

Website

Basic one-pager, can be done overnight.

Typical “Welcome to the future” heading; basic animation in the background — nothing special.

All the links go back to the homepage (just point to different sections).

The section “What Our Community Thinks” could be confused for the project’s team (it isn’t).

Partner mentions have no links — are they ashamed of their partners?

Site protected by CloudFlare. Direct IP not found.

Social Media

They  have 30,000 Telegram followers, 3,000 on Twitter. Much less activity on  Facebook and YouTube. Periodically post on Medium. Overall, their  social presence is ok.

Team

The  central figure here is Sam Williams — the founder and creative force  behind the project. Actively tours conferences promoting the project.

Nearly  all other team members studied with Sam at the University of Kent or  University of Nottingham (except Matt Lockyer and India Raybould). All  team members list themselves as Arweave employees on social media (  except Adam Kennedy and Matt Lockyer). Matt Lockyer did retweet about  the project and praised it, so we’re counting that. Adam Kennedy is a  freelancer, so maybe is just hired as such by Arweave.

There  is no doubt that the team is real. The project has its own YouTube  channel, which features mostly Sam Williams and William Jones. Most of  the team seen photographed together.

Professional competency

Hard  to tell — or most of the team, this is their first project  post-university. Except that Kyle Beckles worked on three  (non-blockchain) projects already. Matt Lockyer, too, has a career going  back to 2008. Although most of that is teaching at the university. Only  in 2017, for 9 months he was Head of Blockchain Solutions at The Vanbex  Group. Matt is clearly the most experienced team member (and at least  partially was involved with blockchain technology in the past).

It’s  also noteworthy Sam Williams and William Jones registered a joint  company as of June 28th, 2017: Minimum Spanning Technologies (Company  Number: 10889544). It was founded with the initial capital of 100,000  GPB (75,000 from Sam Williams and 35,000 from William Jones — https://uk-r.org/company/10889544/get_pdf/28409967.pdf). But that was reduced to just 100 GPB on October 6th, 2017 (none of which at the date hereof have been issued or paid up — https://uk-r.org/company/10889544/get_pdf/28409968.pdf). Aka, they opened a 100,000 pound company but deposited only 100 pounds.

We’re  not mentioning this as part of their experience since the company was  created specifically to manage Arweave (Currently developing and  managing the Archain blockweave project). Yes, Archain was the original  name before being rebranded into Arweave.Friends And Partners

  • Techstars
  • Upvest
  • NORTHBLOCK
  • SHELF AUCTIONNING NETWORK
  • TheJournalofRawData.org

Found  no info about NORTHBLOCK. At all. Except that they are partner with the  Cryptonaire Consulting Group Inc., which was founded in 2018, has 4  employees, and does consulting (“CCG is able to consult for both  projects that are looking to ICO along with existing projects that need  assistance in achieving their goals.”). Note that Arweave is a client of  CCG.

SHELF  AUCTIONNING NETWORK and TheJournalofRawData.org are most likely not  partners but rather friends of the project, since both are still in  development stages.

TheJournalofRawData.org:  “Arweave will be collaborating with biomedical scientists from Charité,  one of the largest university hospitals in Europe, to create a  brand-new open access scientific journal. The Journal of Raw Data will  be an online-only open access peer-reviewed biomedical data journal,  utilising the Arweave network for truly permanent data storage.”

Upvest  “is Europe’s premier crypto-hub with personal assistance. Today, we  professionally review and pick the top 1% of pre-ICOs and make them  easily accessible to a global pool of crypto-enthusiasts. Our mission is  to empower anyone to safely and conveniently engage in the  blockchain-based asset class.”

Techstars  is a very well-known and prestigious startup accelerator. “Techstars  provides Accelerator portfolio companies with access to financial, human  and intellectual capital to fuel the success of their business. Upon  acceptance to a Techstars Accelerator, every company is offered a  $100,000 convertible note. Techstars contributes $20,000, which is  commonly used as a stipend to support living expenses during the  program, and in return receives 6% common stock from each company.”

Bottom  line: Techstars are the biggest partner. In February 2018, they  accepted Arweave alongside other companies (including SHELF AUCTIONNING  NETWORK) into their accelerator. (https://www.techstars.com/content/accelerators/techstars-berlin-announces-companies-fourth-program/)

Advisors

Half of the advisors are Techstars employees:

  • Julian Lenz
  • Rob Johnson
  • Fabian Dudek
  • Christian Eggert

Jesper  Noehr — Co-founder of Upvest. Not listed as an advisor on LinkedIn. But  does actively support Arweave on his social media. He’s the founder of  Bitbucket, which says a lot.

Jeremy  Epstein — CEO of Never Stop Marketing, “has 20 years of international  marketing experience in helping to bring innovative technologies into  the mainstream. Passionate about crypto, blockchain, and decentralised  technology, Jeremy is a former adviser to IOTA and other successful  cryptocurrency projects, and blogs voraciously about related topics.”  Not listed as an advisor on LinkedIn. But on his neverstopmarketing.com  wrote a few articles about them.

Bruno  Meireles de Sousa — “High performing executive, with 20 years’  experience as a global business leader who has succeeded in delivering  significant results and business change in B2B, B2C & B2G across  multiple cultures and multiple sectors.” Did list himself as an advisor  on LinkedIn.

Anthony  Ryan — “Anthony is the Head of Growth at Quantstamp, mentored at  Startup Weekend, first employee at Australia’s largest robo-advisor  Clover.com.au, sold numerous online businesses, and has been investing  in crypto since 2014.” Did list himself as an advisor on LinkedIn.

Overall, all advisors are experts with a good reputation.

Whitepaper

Only 11 pages… and this with Mainnet launch scheduled in a few days….

“…typical blockchains there is always going to be a cost to access content, and content is never stored permanently”

Great, again they talk about content never being stored permanently and that they will fix this “problem” — WTF?

“Transactions  on a blockchain are immutable. You cannot change these transactions  once they are written on a blockchain. You cannot delete this data,  since this would “break the chain” in a sense, rendering the complete  blockchain useless!”

So they claim that their platform solves the following problems:

  1. Modifying stored documents
  2. Falsifying/modifying documents before they are stored on the blockchain

They  only really describe their solution to the first problem. “If a file  gets into the system, it’s cryptographically linked with every other  block and cannot be modified. For some reason, they are silent about the  second problem — a file just “gets into the system.”

Nothing  special! Any file placed into a blockchain is protected from being  modified! It pains us to have to repeat this obvious basic fact of  blockchains.

The very problems are pulled from thin air.

The  first problem is solvable by taking a hash of the file (each file has  its unique hash. If even a byte of info in the file is modified — let’s  say from 0 to 1 — that file’s hash will change quite a bit; therefore  you can’t falsify such a file).

The second problem is solved by having a secure connection between users and repository of data (HTTPS, sFTP, VPN, etc…).

Payment  for file storage goes to miners, with the price itself being pretty  small. They expect token price to rise, thereby increasing mining reward  value.

There are no details or numbers — just promises.

Ok, let’s talk about their innovative technology:

  • Blockweave
  • Proof of Access
  • Wildfire
  • Blockshadows

Blockweave

No need to store the entire blockchain on a node. Instead, can use:

  1. Blockhash  list — “a list of the hashes of all previous blocks. This allows old  blocks to be verified, and potential new blocks evaluated effectively.”
  2. Wallet  list — “a list of all active wallets in the system.” Allows to verify a  transaction without checking every transaction in the block.

The minimum set of data to start mining is a lot smaller than for a typical blockchain.

Using these concepts, new miners can quickly start working.

The platform uses an “ongoing verification” system.

When  new miners get synchronized with the network — they receive the current  block, blockhash list, and wallet list of the current block. “Since  these blockhash and wallet lists have been continuously verified through  the ongoing progress of each block, new miners can start participating  immediately without verifying the entire weave themselves.”

Each node can at any time perform a full weave verification.

Proof of Access

Instead  of using the current block for generating the next one, miners take any  of the old blocks (“recall block”) so they can create a new one faster.  They use a hash from the old block alongside a hash from the current  block — and send both to other miners. This way, using the hash from the  current block, others can verify that the old block was selected  honestly.

Per  the lightpaper, miners don’t need to store all the blocks to generate a  new block, since they use the hash of the current and recall blocks for  creating the next block. Again, the recall block is a randomly chosen  previous block.

Since  anyone can verify the hashes from the current block, they can also know  that the old block is real. This allows the other members of the  network, even those without their own copy of the recall block, to  independently verify that the new block is valid.

Wildfire

Wildfire  is a kind of rating system based on the transaction processing speed  and the speed of receiving information from other peers. The faster the  peer, the higher the rating — with a financial incentive for being  highly rated by other peers.

Slow nodes will be kicked out of the network…

All  of this stimulates nodes to “behave in the most friendly manner  possible to other peers, without cost to those who are receiving the  data.”

The  big bonus here is that this system sets up a topology that ensures the  most effective paths for quick relay of data across the network.

The  platform’s creators are very concerned with making sure that files  could be downloaded from the network in the fastest (and free) way.

And the miners will be highly interested to share files for free in exchange for “additional motivation.”

Blockshadows

Instead  of transferring the entire block between nodes, you transfer its shadow  (which alter allows to reconstruct the entire block). “Blockshadows  contain a hash of the wallet list and hashlist, and a list of  transaction hashes.” This lowers the load on the network and inreases  the speed of block transfers in the network. The team promises that the  system is protected from high transaction commissions even at high  intensity usage of the network. Intheory, 5,000 TPS are possible in a  100Mbps network.

Democratic Content Policy

Their system uses blacklists.

Each node can indicate which files it will not store. They can send these blacklists to other nodes or download them.

If more than half of the nodes have the same file in the blacklist — the file gets put on the network’s overall blacklist.

Very democratic censorship.

Storage Pools

Sample of a problem that’s not really a problem, since:

If  a mining pool appears that maintains a single copy of the weave, the  reward for finding rare blocks outside of this pool will increase (this  is because if the centralised stores become unavailable, miners with a  copy of the rare blocks will be highly likely to receive the reward when  that block becomes the recall block in the future.)

dApps

They offer two ways to use the platform for developing dApps:

  1. Client-Server Architecture
  2. Serverless Architecture

Client-Server Architecture

Developers launch a server/cloud that can interact with a number of the platform’s nodes.

Then  they launch a website (for example) where users can store a file in the  arweave. Monetization of such dApps can include advertising, monthly  subscription, and direct payment for developers to be able to maintain  the necessary flow of AR tokens “in order to ensure that requests for  writing data can be processed.”

Serverless Architecture

There is also an option for creating serverless solutions.

Event Based

They suggest using this platform for notifications.

When something happens in the system, the developers can process it using API.

Trustless and Provable

The architecture of dApps can be planned to be unhackable.

For  example, the part of the code responsible for critical parts of the  program (e.g. Random number generator or user authorization) can be sent  into the arweave.

It  can then be downloaded for execution — and it will be “trustless and  provably fair, i.e. it is the same code that other clients are running.”

Smart contract

No smart contracts or ICO as of yet…

Questions

Ok, so they’re offering a cheap, distributed, permanent data storage on the blockchain.

Q:  What do you mean, “permanent”? Isn’t data stored on the blockchain not  permanent already? Any information stored on the blockchain remains  there permanently. So this sounds like pure marketing.

distributed — wow, really? Distributed app on the blockchain? No way!

cheap — so how will they make money? Just by cashing in via an ICO?

Q: Self-Organising Network

So  the most basic logic of routing metrics on which every network is based  (form local to the Internet) is now a “Self-Organising Network”?  Seriously?

Q:  Document storage on the blockchain? Ok, let’s assume they are encrypted  and the encryption is air-tight. BUT if they are openly stored — anyone  can see them and use for their own purpose (like to get a credit or a  car using your personal information). And what if the encryption gets  broken or the key to the encryption compromised? What if quantum  computers come online? Who will re-encrypt the entire blockchain to keep  these documents safe? All this data will suddenly become  exposed — permanently!

Q: The “Our Ecosystem” section of the site. Where are any links to projects? Or even project names.

Q: We found their old whitepaper: https://arweave.org/whitepaper.pdf

So  no one deleted their old whitepaper from the server? Would it be so  difficult for them to do? Looks like they’ve had since August 2017 to  write a real, detailed, comprehensive whitepaper… and didn’t.

Q:  They don’t show percentages or even the mechanism of miner rewards.  Just: “peers are financially incentivised to…” and that’s it. WTF?

Q: Where are their tokenomics? On what will they spend their ICO money?

Q:  They promise that the system is protected against high transaction  commissions even at high intensity usage of the network. Theoretically,  5,000 TPS on a 100mbps network. How is it protected? What commissions  are established? Who establishes them?

Q:  If something happens in the system, the developers can process it using  the API. And that’s supposed to shock us? Why are they even making a  special note of this? Any API allows this, so…

Q: They say this platform is really good for authorizing various documents. So other platforms/blockchains are not?

Conclusion

Can’t quite call this a scam since they do have an API that can be tested. They even have a few dApps on this API.

But  there are just too many questions. The whitepaper is very vague,  nothing specific, much empty talk. What they position as their  advantages are not innovative since other projects already realized  them.

So until their team responds to the above-mentioned questions…

Verdict

How  will the Arweave team respond to our questions? Will they earn an  upgrade from Questionable to Approved? Come back in a few days and find  out…

*Disclaimer:  The above audit is not in any way financial advice or a solicitation to  buy — it’s merely our collective opinion that we are kind enough to  share with you. Don’t make us regret that.

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